Mario and I, We Go Way Back
Christmas 1986. I couldn’t have been more stoked when I saw that Santa had left me a Nintendo Entertainment System – yup, I was hella good that year! I played Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt for days on end. Over 20 years later, I find myself still passing the time with Mario. And while we’ve both changed over the years, I still see all of the qualities in him that brought us so close in the first place. He might have mis-lead me a few times here and there, but for the most part, I can rely on him for a good time when it counts. And such, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl have been monopolizing my gaming time over these past few weeks.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve played one of Mario’s platform games. I couldn’t stand to look at the horrendous graphics of the N64, and Super Mario Sunshine just didn’t appeal to me. Previous to New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, Super Mario World was really the last one I played. And while I was super excited about Super Mario Galaxy, it got pushed aside during the insanity that was 2007’s holiday season. There simply wasn’t enough time for it, and admittedly, I was still holding a bit of a grudge toward the Wii. Thankfully, recent events have lifted said grudge and I’m now (finally!) enjoying my Wii.
Controls and Gameplay
The first thing I’m interested in when it comes to any title on the Wii, is the control scheme. Super Mario Galaxy uses limited motion controls, but it definitely makes good use of them. Considering the type of game it is, motion controls could quickly hamper the experience, so it’s nice to see Nintendo taking it easy in this department. The remote is used as a pointer to collect starbits, which saves you having to run around to collect them all the time (thank you Nintendo!). Other gestures like wagging the remote sideways makes Mario do his spin attack, and throwing objects like turtle shells and fireballs is performed by doing an over-hand tossing motion. Most enemies are killed by doing a combination of moves – typically, by doing a spin attack then kicking them.
Boss fights are another story, though. There isn’t a whole lot of originality when it comes to how you defeat the bosses and most of them are the same, or a variation of one that you’ve already defeated. It definitely would have been nice to see a bit more diversity here, as well as making them a bit more challenging. I don’t think I ever died taking on a boss.
Wait, WTF Just Happened?
If there’s one thing Nintendo is no good at, it’s telling a good story. Or even one that makes sense, for that matter. I saved the princess a couple nights ago, watched every cut-scene and I couldn’t tell you what most of the main events of the story were or why they took place. Maybe it’s my North American blood that prevents me from comprehending such tales, but that shit went right over my head and made little to no sense to me.
The basic story, is that Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser (again!) and you have to rescue her (again!). Some other princess looking chick shows up and gets you collecting stars to power her space station, so that’s the task at hand. You spend your time going from one wacky galaxy to the next until you have enough stars (60) to bring you to your “special one”. Once you’ve returned Peach to safety (that’s when the story gets really bizarre) you return to the space station thinger to find out that you’re really only half-way done. There’s a total of 120 stars to collect, at which point you unlock “another world” – which is represented by green text in the speech bubble. Any guesses what that might be hinting at? 😉 By the time I completed the main quest, I had put over 22 hours into the game. And that was essentially the bare minimum. SMG definitely packs a lot of value, considering it’s strictly a single player game.
No, I’m not talking about the graphics, because they’re nothing to write home about. Jagged edges and low res textures abound! Sure, it looks good, for the Wii. But how lame is it that you have to say that for every Wii title? Nintendo really should have stepped up a bit more in the hardware department this round.
Anyway, I’m actually referring to the music and sound effects. I was pleasantly surprised when I fired up the game while sitting in the middle of my couch with the volume at a decent level. Even the most subtle effects have a sense of depth to them and the overall surround sound experience is fantastic! Music is another story all together. I couldn’t tell you how many times I sat there with a ridiculous grin on my face as an updated version of a classic theme filled my living room. Not only have they brought back many of the familiar themes from previous Mario games, they’ve updated them to make them more relevant in the most tasteful fashion. I was blown way when I even heard live instruments thrown in the mix. There’s great use of strings, horns and flutes in many of the themes, mostly the new ones, that really make them stand out and bring Mario into modern gaming while still holding onto nostalgia with a firm grip.
I was actually planning to write about Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well, but I’ll save that for next time.